Thursday, January 31, 2019

My Heart by Corinna Luyken - ADVISABLE


My Heart by Corinna Luyken.  PICTUR BOOK Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), 2019.  $18.  9780735227934  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL – ESSENTIAL; MS, HS - ADVISABLE    

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

This poetic look at what the heart is has simple lines with amazing yellow and black illustrations.  “My heart can be closed or opened up wide” is one of the many simple yet profound lines found in the book.  The illustrations show little kids among illustrations that create a feeling.  

As I read this to my son, I found us reading slower and softer because the book pulls feelings about dreaming, heart break, joy or fear.  This review doesn’t do the book justice.  I also think this book would be fun to use as a prompt in a middle school or high school English class.  

C. Peterson

Sheets by Brenna Thummler- ADVISABLE


Sheets by Brenna Thummler, 238 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL Cub House (Lion Forge), 2018.  $13.  

Content: G  BUYING ADVISORY: EL , MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Thirteen year old Marjorie is trying to keep her family’s laundromat in business, but ever since her mother passed away her father has been depressed and hardly comes out of his room.  There is a business man in town who bullies Marjorie because he wants to open a Yoga studio in the location of her laundromat.  Wendell is the ghost of an eleven-year-old boy and he tries to help Marjorie against the bully, but at first, he causes more trouble than good.  When Wendell and Marjorie team up they help each other, and Marjorie begins to feel like she can move on.  

The cover of this graphic novel looks like it’s going to be cute and fun, but it takes on serious topics of loss, fears, depression and fitting in.  Marjorie’s character is often depicted frowning and hunched over and there is a melancholy feel to the whole book.  That said, I did enjoy the creative story and I loved the ending.  

C. Peterson

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson - ADVISABLE

What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson, 240 pages.  Bloomsbury, 2019.  $18. 

Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Serenity’s mom is dead, her dad is nowhere to be found, and now she and her younger brother Danny are living with their mom’s parents – not their dad’s momma.  Starting at a new school isn’t easy, but Serenity makes a friend and is kind of interested in a boy.  But does she want to go down the same path that her Momma took?  Can she stop an angry Danny from trying out the same shortcuts as Daddy?  Scan she be a good friend when Maria needs her?

Watson leaves the reader with plenty of space to speculate as she ushers Serenity hopefully towards a better future.  Nothing is wrapped up in a tidy bow, but there is optimism.  Watson tackles many difficult issues, but infers the harsher behaviors, leaving it up to the reader to decide how graphic to paint the pictures. This means that the book is open to a younger audience as well as story that can be appreciated by older students. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Blended by Sharon M. Draper - ESSENTIAL

Blended by Sharon M. Draper, 308 pages.  Atheneum (Simon), 2018.  $17.  

Content: PG (does mention a noose, a shooting).

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Isabella, 11, is never quite sure where she fits in.  She goes to the same school every day, but one week she lives at Dad’s and the next week she is at Mom’s – neither place feels like home.  Also, she is one of those “mixed” kids – a blend that feels neither black nor white.  Drama at school and anger between her parents make it hard for her to find her footing.

Draper saves the most dramatic, heart-wrenching, and unfortunately too common, scene for the very end.  Isabella’s story can easily read up, at least to middle school.  Students all over will connect with Draper’s look at divorce, blended families, blended kids, and life while not white, and will not forget it any time soon.  Easily a classroom novel and /or read aloud for lots of great discussion.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty - OPTIONAL


The City of Brass (Daevebad Trilogy, #1) by S.A. Chakraborty, 532 pages.  Harper Collins, 2017.  $26  

Content: Language: R (39 swears; 7 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: R.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Nahri is a twenty-year old thief who uses her ability to detect people’s illnesses and emotions to give her opportunities to fatten her purse.  While trying to help cure a young girl, Nahri sings a song that calls a djinn warrior named Dara, and Nahri finds herself at the center of a world that is caught up in old wars and political games.  Every other chapter is told from the perspective of Alizayd, who is the youngest son of the powerful king of Daevebad.  Alizayd wishes for more peace and equality among all the different races and uses his position to try and protect the less fortunate.  When Nahri shows up, Ali and Nahri become friends and they find themselves trapped in their roles by the world around them.  

This is a world full of magic and layered history with a lot of Middle Eastern names and places.  I liked the story line and loved the characters of Nahri, Dara and Ali and the political intrigue made for good twists.  The whole time I wished that I had a character list (some of the characters have more than one name) and a glossary because of the amount of unknown words.  Also, after reading 500 plus pages, it has an open ending which was disappointing.  The content includes gruesome deaths and torture.  This is a complex story and is well written, but I think the audience is adults, I’m not sure of many students who would stay with this series.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Ski Soldier : A World War II Biography by Louise Borden - - ADVISABLE

Ski Soldier : A World War II Biography by Louise Borden 176 pages. NON FICTION Calkins Creek 2018 $17.95 Language: G (0 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (war violence)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Pete Seibert was very athletic, excelling at most sports including football and tennis, but his real passion was skiing. Still in high school when the United States entered WWII, Pete enlisted in the US Army when he turned 18, joining an elite group of mountain troops called the 10th Light Division (Alpine), eventually shipping out to Italy where his platoon took an important stronghold away from the Germans. 

Borden has given us a non-fiction text in verse, so the pages read quickly and there is lots of room for pictures and documents. The format will be appealing to a reader inexperienced with non-fiction, and the subject - - Skiing and war - - is exciting.

Lisa Librarian

The Mighty Chewbacca in the Forest of Fear! by Tom Angleberger - ADVISABLE


Star Wars: The Mighty Chewbacca in the Forest of Fear by Tom Angleberger, illustrated by Andie Tong, 262 pages.  Disney Press, 2018.  $14.  

Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G.  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Chewbacca is sent on a mission to retrieve an important book with Mayv, a librarian and a cargo droid.  At first the mission seems like a business transaction, but when the lady who sent them on the mission threatens to hurt Hans Solo if Chewie doesn’t return with the book, Mayv and Chewie have to step up their efforts.  They fly to a plant covered forest where they have trouble with the aggressive monsters on the island, but Chewie and Mayv become friends and work together to find what they are looking for.  

I’m that rare non-Star Wars lover, but I think Chewie is adorable and I love him, so I enjoyed this story.  I listened to it on audio and the readers and sounds made me feel like I was watching a movie.  I liked the adventure and thought the forest was creative and well described.  I enjoyed the characters and their humor.  The story is simple, but I do think this book fits at a middle school level for Star Wars fans as well as reluctant readers.  The illustrations are three full-page drawings dispersed throughout the book. Quick, fun read.  

C. Peterson    

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan - ADVISABLE

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Xia Gordon.  PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHY.  Sterling, 2019.  $17. 9781454930884

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Celebrate the life path of Gwendolyn Brooks – the first black and the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize.  

Teachers can use this to celebrate Brooks, celebrate the work of poetry, and even use the great page that talks about the value of polishing poetry with revision.  Gordon’s illustrations add just the right note to support the narrative without taking over.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Losing Leah by Tiffany King - OPTIONAL

Losing Leah by Tiffany King, 312 pages.  Feiwel and Friends, 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (48 swears; 4 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Ten years ago, Mia was kidnapped from her front yard at six years old.  The kidnapper, Judy, insists that Mia calls her “Mother” and locks Mia up in the basement and abuses her often, but when Judy takes it too far, Mia has to muster the strength to escape her prison or she will die.  At home, Mia’s twin, Leah, has always felt a deep loss for her sister, but lately she can’t hardly function without obsessing about the dark shadow that is following her.  Leah knows the shadow has to do with Mia but doesn’t know where to turn for help.  The two sisters’ lives are about to come together with unexpected consequences.  

Holy mercy, I couldn’t put this book down!  I would escape to this book throughout the day to see what was going to happen and I audibly commented on different events throughout the book.  Mia is a great character and the story pulled me in from the beginning.  The violence is abuse and self harm and the language in the only thing keeping this from being essential.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

You Won’t Know I’m Gone by Kristen Orlando - OPTIONAL

You Won’t Know I’m Gone by Kristen Orlando, 308 pages. Swoon Reads Book (Macmillan), 2018. $16.99 

Language: R (157 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After her mother’s murder, Reagan only has one goal: kill the man who took her mother from her. And she’s willing to lie, disobey, and put herself at risk in order to accomplish that goal. But what if Reagan isn’t the only one to face the consequences of her actions?

This book is darker than the prequel, mostly because Reagan herself has changed to revolve around the darkness of revenge. Reagan’s newly chosen path causes her, and the readers, to contemplate: what defines who I am and who I want to be, what does it mean to be weak or strong, and what happens when we ignore the consequences? These questions have to be confronted as Reagan changes and learns that our choices determine what kind of person we become.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson - HIGH

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson, 304 pages.  Viking (Penguin), MARCH 2019.  $18.

Language: R (35 swears, 2 ‘f’); Mature Content: R; Violence: R

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Through a series of poetic entries, Halse Anderson exposes the true story behind Speak, her own complicated upbringing and family dynamics, the writing of Speak, and the many conversations she has been involved in since its publication.

I have now read this book three times myself.  Halse Anderson lays her soul bare for us.  You can not read this book and remain unaffected by it.  I do not have the words to express how important this book is to get into the hands of as many people of any age – children and adults. While there is heavy content on the pages, I can’t see how any mention or word was wasted – none of them are superfluous are gratuitous. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

https://amzn.to/2MGiXWi

March Forward, Girl by Melba Patillo Beals - OPTIONAL


March Forward, Girl by Melba Patillo Beals, 214 pages.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.  $17.  

Content: Language: PG (3 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Melba grew up with her mother, grandmother and brother in Little Rock, Arkansas among Jim Crow laws and deep prejudices.  This book looks at some of her childhood experiences with racism and the ways those experiences led her to want freedom from the oppression she experienced.  Melba enjoyed learning and loved her family and the combination made her the perfect fit to be one of the first to integrate her local high school.  

I loved Beals' book Warriors Don't Cry (which I highly recommend) and there were parts of this book that will stay with me forever.  I had a hard time with the adult perspective that she interpreted as her childhood thoughts, such as when she was three years old she said "How did I get here? How long did I have to stay? I imagined there must be places beyond Arkansas where my folks were treated better" and at four years old she promised herself "to survive so that I could escape Little Rock and empower myself with enough education to come back home and change everything”. All of these thoughts are valid but the age she attributed to them were hard to believe and it distracted me from the important message of the book.  I believe this story needs to be told and I loved Melba's family and her strength, but I also felt like it needed a different format so her experiences as a child weren't mixed with her perspectives as an adult on her childhood.  The violence included a hanging, sexual harassment and threat of rape.  

C. Peterson

Catwoman by Sarah J. Maas - HIGH


Catwoman: Soulstealer (D.C. Comics, #3) by Sarah J. Maas, 360 pages.  Random House, 2018.  $19.  

Content: Language: R (100+ swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH      

At seventeen, Selina has been raising her sister, Maggie, for a few years because of her irresponsible parents.  Maggie has cystic fibrosis and her medical costs to stay comfortable are high, so Selina fights for the underground gang called the Leopards.  When Selina is arrested, her only concern is for Maggie, so when a wealthy woman offers to take care of all of Maggie’s needs, if Selina will train with her league of assassins, Selina takes the offer.  On the other side of Gotham, Luke is a wealthy war veteran who protects the city as the hero, Batwing. When Maggie returns she is under the guise of Holly Vanderhees and she is Luke’s neighbor.  Holly is wanted by the assassins who trained her and she is also a thief.  Luke and Maggie’s paths cross and life gets interesting.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this spin on Catwoman.  I’ve never really loved her character, but this book gives a great back story with interesting characters that I felt empathy for.  Maas is an amazing writer and I loved the pace of the plot and all the minor characters as well.  The violence includes fighting and killings and the mature content is make-outs.  If not for the high swear count this book would be essential.  

C. Peterson

Monday, January 28, 2019

Digging Deep: How Science Unearths Puzzles from the Past by Laura Scandiffio - OPTIONAL


Digging Deep: How Science Unearths Puzzles from the Past by Laura Scandiffio, 103 pages.  NON-FICTION Annik Press, 2019.  $15.  

Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

This book covers six different discoveries in archeology that modern science has been able to uncover more facts about.  The discoveries include Otzi the Iceman, an ancient poison, a lost city in Cambodia, lost ships in the Arctic, the lost grave of Richard III and the Chauvet Cave art.  Each chapter has a story involving the topic and then it has a section about how modern archeologists can use different technology or testing to determine facts about history that we haven’t known before.  At the end of the chapter there is a summary about what that discovery has changed about our perceptions of history.  

I wanted to love this book because its subtitle had me totally intrigued, but it is so wordy and dense that it takes patience to wade through the information.  It is interesting, and certain chapters were more entertaining than others (the Richard the III chapter read like a mystery), but I’m not sure students would be compelled to continue to read.  Also, I have an ARC and the pictures were blurry and unattractive, which I’m sure will be cleaned up for the final book, but I think the pictures will either make or break readers interest.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson   

The Backstagers and the Ghost Light by Andy Mientus - OPTIONAL

The Backstagers and the Ghost Light by Andy Mientus, illustrated by Rian Sygh, 195 pages. Amulet Books (Abrams), 2018. $15.

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (High School Dating); Violence: PG (Fighting Ghosts and Monsters). 


BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The Backstagers are highly skilled high school stage techs at St. Genesius Prep. They are gearing up for their production of Phantasm, but someone (or something) is making a mess of the rehearsals. A light falls during auditions, the ghost light breaks and the girl they cast as their lead explores backstage where she shouldn't go setting off an epic battle between good and evil. 

There are 8 comics preceding this novel, and while the author fills in the reader so the story is in context, it will make much more sense and you will keep track of the characters better if you've read the comics. I hate to see that these kids produce a whole show and face mortal danger without any adult supervision at all. Also, there's a magical, supernatural quality to these adventures, so don't expect an authentic theater story.

Lisa Librarian

The Lantern's Ember by Colleen Houck - ESSENTIAL


The Lantern’s Ember by Colleen Houck, 386 pages.  Delacorte Press, 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Jack has been watching over Ember ever since she was little. Ember is a powerful witch and Jack makes it his job to ensure that the Otherworlders do not come to take Ember. There has been a witch power shortage in the Otherworld and the Lord of the Otherworld is seeking for a new witch to supply the world with power. Ember is persistent to go to the Otherworld. Jack will not take her, so she seeks for a way to get there. Ember meets the charming vampire Dev, who was sent by the wife of the Lord of the Otherworld. Dev’s job is to escort Ember to meet the Lord of the Otherworld’s wife. Jack soon finds out that Ember has entered the Otherworld and he and Ember’s best friend Finney must go save her before anything bad happens to her. 

This is an amazing story of adventure, mystery, magic, love and heartbreak.  The characters in this book were likable and well developed. I enjoyed the setting and thought it was cool for different. I loved the plot twists put in place. I do, however, wish that the author had put more detail into certain parts of the book.  

Student Reviewer, Isabelle, 9th grade.

Batman: Nightwalkers by Marie Lu - ESSENTIAL


Batman: Nightwalker (D.C. Icons, #2)  by Marie Lu, 250 pages.  Random House, 2018. $19.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (22 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.    

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL – HIGH  

Bruce Wayne has just turned eighteen and with that comes access to his trust fund.  Bruce wishes that he could have his parents instead of the money, and with the way he lost his parents he has carefully watched the crime in Gotham since he became an orphan.  On the night of his eighteenth birthday, Bruce helps the police stop a criminal, but he is punished for his vigilantism and given community service at the local Arkham Asylum.  While cleaning the halls of the asylum, Bruce is drawn to Madeleine Wallace a quiet and beguiling girl who is involved with the crime ring called the Nightwalkers.  Bruce thinks he can get information out of Madeleine, even though the police can't, but what he finds out is that he might be the Nightwalkers next target.  

I loved this re-imagining of Batman.  Bruce Wayne at eighteen makes for a fun story line. I enjoyed how Marie Lu stayed true to the feel of Gotham and Batman’s world.  Although this is the second D.C. Icons novel, they don’t overlap or need to be read in order.  The violence is PG-13 because of some of the violence described.  

C. Peterson

Sunday, January 27, 2019

My Life as a Meme by Janet Tashjian - ADVISABLE

My Life as a Meme by Janet Tashjian, illustrated by Jake Tashjian, 256 pages. Henry Holt (MacMillan), 2019. $14.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Derek and his friends have been invited to a fancy mansion in Malibu for a fun filled weekend - the catch is, Derek's mom is dog sitting a Shih Tzu name Poufy who has an Instagram following. It's Derek's responsibility to make sure she gets posted everyday, and that her grooming regimen is followed. But when a forest fire threatens the Malibu community, everyone must evacuate, and a weekend of luxury turns into an overnight stay at the local high school. 

I really love this series - this is #8 - Derek gets into the most ridiculous trouble or is picked on for random reasons, middle school kids will certainly relate to the online bullying, the memes and the social media. I love recommending this series and the latest installment is a fun, timely read. 

Lisa Librarian

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney - HIGH


A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney, 366 pages.  Imprint (Macmillan), 2018.  $19.

Language: R (100+ swears, 5+ ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (fantasy fighting)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

The night of her dad’s funeral the Nightmare almost killed Alice, until she was rescued by Addison Hatta.  A year later Alice is a Nightmare slaying fiend, dividing her time between Wonderland and the human world, juggling hero duties with her mother, her friends, and her school work.  Just when she is ready to throw in the towel, a older, bigger threat comes to Wonderland – The Black Knight is back and he is out for blood – everyone’s blood.  Only Alice and the Tweedlanov brothers stand between him and his goal.

Alice in Wonderland meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this no-holds-barred romp through Carrol’s world.  The references to the source material are copious – Alice and Buffy references.  But kids who don’t get those references will still enjoy the demon-slaying action.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Check Please!: Book #1: Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu - OPTIONAL

Check Please!: Book #1: Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu, 240 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second, 2018. $17

Language: R (100+ swears, multiple “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Formerly a figure skater, Eric vlogs about his experiences playing ice hockey in college. Eric brings to the team a new perspective since he loves to bake and he is gay. The team accepts him easily and Eric finds a lot of positive things about his college experience. 

Eric is a very charming character; he is outgoing and honest. The other characters on the team are stereotypical in many ways, but in response to Eric they become more complex characters. The language and drinking are barriers for this book and young readers, but the messages about acceptance and finding love are worth the read.    


Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher 

Lucy and Andy Neanderthal: Bad to the Bones by Jeffrey Brown - ADVISABLE


Lucy and Andy Neanderthal: Bad to the Bones (Lucy and AndyNeanderthal #3) by Jeffrey Brown, 208 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL  Crown (Random House), 2018. $13.  

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL – HIGH  

Lucy and Sasha decide that they are going to create a club that discovers new things around them.  While out looking they find dinosaur bones and some other Neanderthals.  The other clan of Neanderthals keep cropping up throughout the book and are not very nice, eventually they try to steal from the family’s cave.  All the kids ban together to set up traps to discourage the outsiders from being in their cave.  

Throughout the book there are two scientists who comment on what happens in each chapter, explaining the facts from the chapter and other interesting tidbits, which I totally enjoyed.  The illustrations are in black and white, and I wish they were in color because my boys aren’t pulled in by the drawings but would love the story if they would just give it a chance.  Overall, it’s a creative story with funny story lines and interesting information.  

C. Peterson

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I’m OK by Patti Kim - OPTIONAL


-->
I’m OK by Patti Kim, 278 pages.  Atheneum (Simon), 2018.  $17

Language: PG (9 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Since Ok’s father died, he and is mother have struggled to keep ends meeting.  Ok, 12,  brainstorms ideas to help his mom, including winning the school talent show $100 prize (though he says he has no talents) or braiding girls’ hair for $1.  When his mom starts dating again, Ok is only more confused and hurt. 

Like Front Desk by Kelly Yang and Save Me a Seat by Weeks and Varadarajan, I’m OK tries to bring us into the life of a recent immigrant.  Unfortunately, Ok’s tale is kind of all over the place, making it hard to fully develop empathy.  The details are funny – like learning to roller skate, but as a cohesive whole it fails to evoke deep emotion.  Reasonable paperback option to grow your diverse collection.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS